Know the Signs and Symptoms of GERD in Children and Adults


It is estimated that around 60 million individuals in the United States have the burning, fiery symptom that we call "heartburn" at least once each month. While many do not imagine them when picturing classic heartburn patients, teenagers, children, and infants are among those included in that number.

In about 20% of the population, heartburn points to a more alarming condition referred to as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), an ailment that can seriously interfere with the health and quality of life of those who live with it. Should you or your child suffer from recurring or severe symptoms associated with acid reflux, get in touch with Adult Gastroenterology Associates to find a digestive health specialist who provides GERD treatment in Tulsa, OK.

What causes GERD to occur?

Located at the lower end of your esophagus (where it connects with the stomach) is a muscle named the lower esophageal sphincter (LES). When you ingest food or liquids, the LES relaxes to permit the contents to pass into the stomach. It then closes again to keep stomach acid from pushing backward. If this muscle fails to work properly, the acid may move up into the esophagus, resulting in a burning feeling (heartburn) and possibly a sour taste in the mouth.

GERD is a disease that may occur in people who commonly have acid reflux. Over time, chronic exposure to stomach acid can leave behind lasting damage to esophageal tissues. This may result in significant discomfort and a higher risk for additional issues with your esophagus.

Though GERD is not usually caused by any particular component, there is a range of things that may induce frequent acid reflux in adults and children, such as:

  • Lying flat after eating
  • Obesity
  • Smoking (or exposure to secondhand smoke)
  • Eating spicy or high-acidity foods
  • Consuming large meals

Younger individuals (especially babies) might also be more likely to develop acid reflux because their gastrointestinal muscles are not as developed.

What are common signs and symptoms of GERD in children and adults?

GERD presents with several of the same symptoms as acid reflux, but they might occur more often (at least two times per week at moderate-to-severe intensity). Other signs and symptoms occur over the course of time as a result of ongoing acid reflux. The more common signs and symptoms of GERD in adults include:

  • Sore, raw throat, or hoarse voice
  • Unproductive cough
  • Regurgitation of sour liquid or food
  • Unpleasant breath
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • The sensation of food stuck or a lump in the throat
  • Pain in the chest area
  • Frequent heartburn (burning sensation in the chest)
  • Choking

In addition to those discussed above, signs of GERD in children may involve:

  • Trouble gaining weight
  • Frequent episodes of nausea or vomiting (after infancy)
  • Breathing problems, such as coughing and/or wheezing
  • Refusing to eat (in infants)

It is vital to obtain treatment for GERD in children before it becomes a problem that interferes with their health and development. If you or your child notice symptoms that might stem from ongoing acid reflux, request an appointment with an Adult Gastroenterology Associates gastrointestinal specialist without delay to learn about your options for treating GERD.

How is GERD found and treated?

Our Tulsa, OK gastroenterologists may evaluate your symptoms and check your esophagus for signs of gastroesophageal reflux disease using a pH probe or an endoscope device. If you are diagnosed with the condition, your GI doctor might recommend implementing several lifestyle modifications, which may involve avoiding foods known to trigger acid reflux, weight loss, avoiding lying down after eating, or avoiding smoking.

Your GI specialist might also recommend medications to minimize acid or strengthen the LES to hinder stomach acid from pushing up into the esophagus. In some instances, surgery could be needed to improve the esophageal connection to the stomach. Treatment options for GERD in children or adults may differ on a case-by-case basis, so it's important to consult a GI physician to make certain you receive the appropriate treatment for your health.

Treatment for GERD in children and adults

Acid reflux signs and symptoms are common, but they might be the beginning of more serious health issues in the absence of care. The board-certified gastroenterologists at Adult Gastroenterology Associates proudly offer a variety of methods to treat GERD in adults and children. To find out more about the causes of GERD or to find treatment for GERD in Tulsa, OK, request a consultation with our GI team.